Our ability to engage with imagination is what distinguishes us from all other species. But it is something we have rarely been taught how to work with. Our ability to compute and to analyse (the typical left side of the brain functions) have been well developed in our education systems, but not our capacity for imagination.
If we think of this in terms of the elements, then air, and perhaps fire, have traditionally been the dominant elements in our socialisation. Air encompasses intellect, computing and analysis whilst fire brings confidence and risk-taking. These are all great qualities and have served us well in creating everything that surrounds us. The trouble may come when we are not balanced as individuals. The ability to have grounding experiences (earth) and to process our feelings and emotions (water) have largely been left to extra curricular activities. Meditation and yoga practice are now everywhere, admittedly, even in primary schools, but there is still a long way to go before we can begin to see a more holistic approach to teaching and learning in the education sector.
Here is an exercise on trying to engage with the active imagination. A preamble for working this way would involve taking some mindful steps in becoming receptive by undertaking some deep breathing exercises. The following questions could act as a guide:
1. What are your current main stressors?
2. How does this affect your body?
3. It is like ……?
4. Is there a memory where you felt like this before?
5. If this symptom was a friend what might it say about your life?
(This exercise might not, however, be suitable for people who might be experiencing psychotic symptoms).
Seeking to engage with an exercise like this can help to produce images and symbols which can help bypass mental defences, when the thinking function is dominant. So often we can feel stuck in our minds, whether it is worrying about things that haven’t happened, or tiring ourselves out by searching online for more and more explanations to questions that are hard to answer.
For more on this topic see my latest article on Engaging with the power of imagination to help ease anxiety.